Skip to main content
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
SFU Co-op Student

Bernice Puzon

When people think of the Downtown Eastside, they usually think of poverty, homelessness, and drug use. But, in the four months that I worked within this community, I discovered a new perspective.

I worked for a non-profit called Union Gospel Mission (UGM), a Christian organization dedicated to helping individuals overcome poverty, homelessness, and addiction. As a Resource Development Assistant, I actually spent most of my time thanking and calling our donors at my office desk. Yet while I worked a 9-5 office job, UGM’s work within the Downtown Eastside community provided me with opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way:

1. Know How Your Role Fits Within the Big Picture of the Organization

Within my first few days on the job, I received training that was centered on how the organization functioned as a whole. I learned about the variety of programs and services that UGM provides, which goes far beyond simply providing a meal and shelter to those who are homeless. In addition, we have summer camp partnerships and offer recovery programs and a stabilization centre for women.

Most importantly, I saw first-hand how the programs and services at UGM were helping people.  That made my role of thanking and interacting with donors so much more meaningful, as I saw how their funds were being put towards life-changing initiatives. Once I understood the big picture of how my job was a part of the organization, I became much more passionate about my role and the work I was doing.

2. Get to Know People Around you; and NO, I’m Not Just Talking About your Co-workers

I have heard so many stories while I’ve been here. The men in our Alcohol & Drug Recovery program reside in the same building where I worked. As we ate lunch together, they would share their stories with me—many of which contained experiences of pain, abuse, and shame. I felt honoured that they were willing to share these deeply personal accounts with me and was in complete awe of their honesty and vulnerability in opening up.

I have talked to everyone from the custodian who empties the trash in our office every morning to the receptionist who greets guests downstairs. Regardless of their job description and their role within the organization, they are all wonderful people who have some extraordinary life experiences. I would have hugely missed out on getting to know them had I interacted only with the people on my own office floor.

3. Explore the World Outside of your Office

I had the privilege of going on a comprehensive tour of the areas in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. There, I found a rich and varied history of the neighbourhood that media outlets rarely cover—if they do, it’s usually through a very negative lens—including the fact that it was once the central hub of the City of Vancouver. I discovered also that it is a thriving neighbourhood and community where everyone knows everyone.

Amazing things happened when I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I met some of the most compassionate and resilient people along the way. While I was able to take away professional skills that would help me in future positions, the most important lessons I learned will be with me for a lifetime. I found that everyone has a story and deserves to be treated with dignity, and that hope can be found in the unlikeliest places. I will cherish my experience here from my office desk and beyond. 

    SFU Co-op Student
    Bernice Puzon is a second year student studying Communications at SFU and also works on campus as a student tour guide. When she isn’t busy writing, she enjoys reading, singing, and playing with her pet pug named Big Mac.
    visibility  135
    Nov 26, 2015

    You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

    author, courtney, smiling
    A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

    Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

    picture of glichelle pondering a though
    Surviving Workplace Politics

    Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

     

    person with their head in a book
    Responsibility and Success

    One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

     

    You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

    Landscape image of SFU Burnaby Campus and the Academic Quadrangle
    What is It Like to Work at Your Own School?

    A lot of Oliver's friends and classmates would talk about wanting to travel away and work in new and novel places. Oliver didn't feel the same way. In this blog post, he shares his reasoning for staying at SFU and why he always wanted to work where he studied.

    Image of Author. Se is smiling at the camera and is wearing black shirt and black coat. The title of the blog is printed on the left of her image.
    7 Ways Internships are Like All You Can Eat Buffets

    Working in many different Co-op positions can be analogous with sampling everything at an all you can eat buffet. You see some things that really catch your eye, and some things you know you absolutely won’t like. But the fact of the matter is, you probably won’t know exactly what every single dish will taste like until you opt in to trying it. With Co-op, it’s much the same – you probably have an idea of what you want to do, but trying something entirely new might surprise you and pique your interest for future career options.

    Gateway of India Monument in Mumbai (Bombay)
    Sheena Takes On the Mumbai Marketing Scene

    In her third year as a Communication major, Sheena Rupani returns home to Mumbai, India and proves that an SFU student has what it takes to compete on the international marketing scene. In a setting where high stakes rely on time management and clear cross-cultural communication, this international co-op celebrity takes self-directed study to the next level.